Say it with Tiramisu! – Be My Valentine

One of my favorite dessert stories involves some friends who couldn’t figure out why their young daughter wouldn’t go to sleep late into the evening after a dinner party they had given.  She had never had a problem getting to bed and they were perplexed as to why she was so hyper that night.  When she finally settled down and they were cleaning up the kitchen it dawned on them.  She had had tiramisu – and more than one serving!

I learned how to make tiramisu in culinary school.  I had never heard of it before the day that Pascal announced our menu du jour.  Reading the recipe, I figured I would like it as it contained six of my favorite food groups: dairy, coffee, grains, sugar, chocolate and brandy.  I was right, the tiramisu was delicious.  Now I enjoy making it for special occasions (such as Valentine’s Day).  For those of you who don’t know how tiramisu is prepared, I will give a short description here with the actual recipe following below.

Basically you dip ladyfinger cookies one at a time in a mixture of simple syrup, coffee, and brandy until they absorb as much liquid as possible without breaking.  You then place the ladyfingers in a baking dish or something nice (once assembled the tiramisu doesn’t get moved until serving).  If you want to get fancy, you can carefully line the sides of your dish with ladyfingers vertically.  You can even make individual portions of tiramisu in small dishes or cups.  Whichever dish you use, you cover the bottom with sweetened, caffeinated, liquored-up cookies.  Then you spread mascarpone that has been “lightened” with heavy whipping cream on top of them like a thick coat of frosting.  Finely ground dark chocolate is the next layer and you sprinkle that on top until you can’t see the white of the mascarpone mixture. Then you repeat all the layers again, ending with a wonderfully chocolaty top.  It is best to let it chill for several hours before serving so that all the ladyfingers get soft and the flavors meld gracefully.

To serve, carefully scoop out a portion (to be determined by you), maybe put a sprig of mint on top if you want to impress your friends and family, and enjoy this intensely rich and decadent dessert.  Maybe there should be a “Not recommended for children” label attached somewhere.  If you are bothered by caffeine late in the day, try some tiramisu with your morning coffee.

When I first started teaching cooking, I have to laugh a bit at myself as I remember the first time I had tiramisu on one of my menus.  I had folks in the class actually make the lady finger dough from scratch, pipe it onto parchment-lined sheet trays and bake them to golden perfection.  Then they assembled the tiramisu after letting the ladyfingers cool.  I know we didn’t run late (because I always end my classes on-time), but I can’t remember how we got it all done–the tiramisu was just the dessert for the three-course, three-hour dinner!  I do remember that I had figured it was cheaper to make the lady fingers than to buy them, though!  I still make plenty of things from scratch, but now I buy the ladyfingers.  But I do have an interesting recipe for homemade mascarpone that I am anxious to try!)

Tiramisu is a wonderful dessert for a Valentine’s celebration.  We will be making it for the Valentine’s Wine Dinner at Smoky’s Club February 10, 2019.  It will be complimented with a delicious Mini Espresso Martini.  (I suggest that you have some activities planned for after dinner!)

(You can always use decaffeinated coffee and alcohol-free Brandy extract, if you must.)

8 ounces mascarpone
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup sugar
1 cup strong coffee (or use decaf)
1 cup simple syrup, (equal part sugar dissolved in an equal part of water)
½ cup brandy, (or 1-2 teaspoons non-alcoholic Brandy extract)
1 package ladyfingers
2 cups ground chocolate

Method:  Stir the mascarpone to loosen it up a bit. Don’t whisk it too vigorously or you may cause it to separate.  Whip the cream with the sugar to form peaks. Fold into the mascarpone. Combine the strong coffee, simple syrup and brandy in a bowl. Dip the ladyfingers in the mixture until just soggy and then place them in the bottom of a cake or other pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with soaked ladyfingers. Top with half the mascarpone mixture and sprinkle half the chocolate on top. Repeat the process. Chill before serving.

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